South Carolina is a beautiful state.
Tourism is this state's top industry, bringing in over $15 billion to our economy each year. Out-of-staters want to come to South Carolina and visit our historic cities, pristine beaches, and breathtaking mountains.
The problem is that they also want to send us their garbage. A bill in the South Carolina Legislature would make it easier for out-of-state waste companies to ship garbage by rail and barge to be deposited in South Carolina for eternity. South Carolina is our beautiful state. While we welcome our out-of-state friends, we don't want to be a dumping ground for their garbage and sewer sludge.
House Bill 3290, cleverly named the "Business Freedom to Choose Act," if passed, would result in more out-of-state waste being shipped to and disposed of in South Carolina landfills.
We currently have 17 landfills in our state. Nine are public and eight private, although private landfills handle 75 percent of the waste. We can only prevent out-of-state garbage from being dumped in publicly owned landfills.
The Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution prevents government at any level from prohibiting out-of-state waste in a private landfill. This bill sets the stage for large private waste companies, Waste Management and Republic Services, to create more trash mountains with out-of-state garbage.
House Bill 3290 would prohibit a county or municipality from directing that solid waste within its jurisdiction be disposed of at a particular landfill.
Without this ability, funding to open, operate and close public landfills will be jeopardized. Private waste companies could then lower their landfill fees temporarily, even at a loss, to take business away from our public landfill facilities. With declining revenue, local governments would be forced either to raise taxes to cover the loss or to sell the landfill to a private waste company. In this case, the best financial decision for the county would be to sell. Once private companies own all of the landfills in the area, they can progressively raise prices on South Carolina residents and import lucrative out-of-state waste. We would be helpless to stop them.
Over 200,000 tons of garbage were sent by rail from New York to South Carolina just last year. This is just a small portion of the over 3 million tons of garbage that New York ships and buries in out-of-state landfills each year. With states between New York and South Carolina that accept out-of-state waste approaching capacity, closing their landfills or closing their borders to out-of-state waste, there will be increasing pressure to find somewhere to find somewhere to put New York's garbage.
Coupled with the City of New York's plans to build maritime transfer stations and ship garbage out by barge, South Carolina is likely to see more out-of-state waste.
Another factor to consider is that New York pays well over $100 a ton to dispose of its garbage. In South Carolina, the average fee is only $38 per ton. This fee disparity is a significant incentive for private waste companies to put public landfills out of business and purchase their landfill capacity. These private companies would then be able to fill that capacity with lucrative out-of-state waste and we would have no legal authority to prevent it.
Don't let someone else's garbage foul up our state.
Again, we welcome our friends from out of state, but not their garbage.
Help us keep South Carolina beautiful for tourism by keeping out-of-state waste out of state.
Call your legislators and urge them to vote "No" on House Bill 3290.
Richard H. Rosebrock of Summerville is a former Dorchester County councilman. The county's nature park on the Ashley River is named for him.